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January 8, 2011

Growing enthusiasm
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 12:47 PM *

I reckon every office has That Guy‡.

I mean the contagious enthusiast; you know the type. He talks about his underwater basketweaving by the coffee machine, and the next thing you know you’re looking at online wicker suppliers and wondering if your bathtub’s the right shape. One of them can turn an entire office into a herd of rock climbers, or single malt whisky drinkers, or Proust fans.

My team’s incarnation of That Guy is into sprouting. He has special stacking boxes for keeping the sprouts from sitting in the water and going sour. He gets his seeds from a particular shop in England. He not only has all of the books on sprouting, but holds considered opinions on which ones are particularly good.

So one morning a couple of months ago, he was telling me about his sprouting while I was making my tea, and I mentioned that my parents used to grow bean and alfalfa sprouts. To the contagious enthusiast, this sort of bridge-building small talk is the equivalent of an engraved invitation. Unsurprisingly, I found his spare sprouting boxes, a little tub of mixed seeds, and the best of the sprouting books† on my desk the next morning.

Now, I strive to be both polite and truthful*, and I knew I would have to try the whole thing out in order to be able to discuss it with him afterward. So I soaked a handful of the seeds in water for the requisite 8 hours, then spread them on the trays of the sprouting box and sprayed them morning and night. Two or three days later, the box was filled with sprouts.

I decided to try a couple raw while I figured out what to do next.

OM NOM NOM

The next thing I remember was looking at the empty sprouting box and feeling strangely…healthy.

I’ve tweaked and fiddled with the setup since then. I returned the boxes, because they seemed to foster mold growth. And I went and found my own sources of beans that don’t require me to cross the Channel, or even the IJ. But I’m now running a small farm on one of the shelves of my bindery and eating a bowl of fresh sprouts every day. It’s cheap (maybe €5 a month), requires about a cubic foot of space, and provides a fresh and crunchy source of vitamin C.

So at the risk of being That Blogger, let me tell you what I do.

The beans for my sprouting mix come from the local ethnic grocery store. I buy the following in 500g bags:

  • Red mung beans
  • Green mung beans
  • Whole brown lentils
  • Dried chickpeas

That Guy had more varieties of lentil in his mix, as well as sunflower seeds, but my source doesn’t supply such exotica. And this assortment works for me. I store the smaller beans mixed together, but keep the chickpeas separate. Otherwise they tend to float to the top of the box.

Every couple of days, I take a handful of the small-beans mix and a handful of chickpeas and put them into a peanut butter jar. I rubber-band a piece of tulle netting over the top, then rinse the beans a couple of times with cool water. I fill the jar most of the way and let it stand for about 8 hours to soak. Then I drain the water out.

I rinse the sprouts with fresh water and let them drain every morning and evening thereafter. Between rinsings, the jars lie on their sides on one of my bindery shelves. Two or three days after that first soaking, I get to eat a bowl of sprouts and feel healthy, thrifty, virtuous and smug. When the jar is empty, I wash it and the tulle and start again.

Two jars run in staggered parallel give me around a cup of sprouts a day, which is about as much smugness as any one person should be permitted. I understand that if you leave them to drain for a bit more time, sprouts can be kept in the fridge for a few days, but I’m prone to just eating them and growing more.

OM NOM NOM


‡ no, not that That Guy; that’s what restraining orders are for.
† in addition to being very informative about the process of sprouting, it has a useful and interesting chapter on coming out as a sprouter during the dating phase of a new relationship
* these values do come into conflict from time to time, but that’s another story

Comments on Growing enthusiasm:
#1 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 01:18 PM:

Suddenly, I feel the need to eat something healthy. My mother used to sprout mung beans and use them in her cooking.

::eyes parental pantry::

#2 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 01:19 PM:

I like adding radish seed to the mix, for spicy goodness. And yeah, +1 on sprouting in easily washable glass jars (widemouth canning jars in my case, with multi-punctured lids.)

#3 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 01:35 PM:

Fortunately, I am immune to the joys of sprouts (grin). Growing up in Sprouthead Central, Oregon (i.e., Eugene) pretty much took care of it.

I even managed to avoid wheatgrass.

But lo, I am glad for those of you who enjoy sprouts. I got into a bad bunch once, however, and ever since my gut flops if I run into any sprouts at all.

#4 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 01:41 PM:

I must try this again. I collected some jars, and got some potential lid materials (a) muslin*; (b) jelly straining material**, but practically every time I thought about starting, I was about to go away for one or more days during the sprouting period, and was sure they would die/grow mould without my daily care.

I did manage to make some once, but only a small proportion of the seeds sprouted. Also, unfortunately, I didn't really like just eating them raw. Maybe I need to repeat several times, like I did to get used to the texture of lentils (which I now really like).

Abi, can you just use ordinary dried beans bought for cooking, or do you need different ones?

* (useful for straining sloe gin)

* bought to make a re-usable tea bag for travelling (which I've not got around to making yet, because I found paper ones at a reasonable price)

#5 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 01:46 PM:

dcb @4:

can you just use ordinary dried beans bought for cooking, or do you need different ones?

I'm using ordinary dried ones bought for cooking. They sprout readily and reliably.

I would warn you that muslin and jelly straining material are probably both too fine. I started with a loose-weave muslin*, but moved to a polyester tulle** because it was taking forever for the water to drain.

-----
* pinched from the bindery when I was doing the blackberry vodka
** spare mosquito netting—obviously not chemically impregnated

#6 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 02:06 PM:

abi @ 5: Thank you for this info - very useful; I really must try this properly. And you got the mosquito netting where? I would like to get some not just for this but to make screens to put over windows for the summer (to allow open windows while keeping the cat indoors)*.

*Ideally I'd like to get some proper hardware cloth (I think that's the right name - fine metal mesh to keep mosquitoes etc. out) to make a screen door for the patio doors in my home office, but the only place I've found that sells this in the UK charges an exhorbitant price.

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 02:10 PM:

dcb @6:

Well, I got the netting from a local store here in the Netherlands. But you could go to a fabric store and look at the tulle they sell for tutus; the finer of that stuff would probably serve.

#8 ::: Martin ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 02:25 PM:

Can you sprout coffee beans, and so combine your vitamin C and caffeine fix?

#9 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 02:35 PM:

dcb, "hardware cloth" around here means about 1/4" mesh--way too big to keep mosquitoes out, unless you have some damn big mosquitoes.

#10 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 02:50 PM:

I, too, am pretty much immune to the alleged joys of sprouting.

My mother used to sprout (mung beans, mostly, but also some fine little hairy/waddy sprouts, maybe alfalfa?) because she was worried that our diet in the frozen north was vegetable-deficient. (I'm sure it was a sensible worry.)

Raw, the sprouts were OK in small quantities; but they don't readily mix with much of anything else, and she mixed them with everything we ate in an attempt to work them into our diet. Sandwiches of mung bean sprouts and home-canned river salmon on whole wheat, anybody? "Just eat it, kid." Sprout and sliced-onion salad with vinegar-and-oil dressing? "You need your veggies."

And when she ran out of ways to serve "enough" raw sprouts, she started stirring them into our cooked foods.

If there's anything nastier than the unlooked for hot crunch of a tangled wad of half-cooked mung bean sprouts in what you thought was going to be your perfectly pleasant breakfast scrambled eggs, I cannot think what it might be. 35 years on, it's a vividly unpleasant sense memory.

Do not want.

#11 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 02:53 PM:

Lila @9: Okay, so what do you call the fine metal mesh that screen doors are made of? It really barely exists in the UK. What you're talking about, I think I'd describe as a fine grade of weldmesh.

#12 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 02:54 PM:

My local hardware store carries mosquito netting by the yard. But this is McGuckin's we're talking about.

Hey! Tulle! I've even got some of that on hand, left over from a friend's hand-fasting.

Also: try sprouted peas. The sprouts taste like—wait for it!—fresh peas! My local Whole Foods also carries broccoli sprouts.

This post is propitious, as I have been pondering having a go at the raw-vegs-only variant of intermittent fasting. (I've lately put on a bunch of weight, and really dislike the sensation of having a king-sized pillow strapped to the front of my torso.)

#13 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 02:57 PM:

Lila @9: Okay, so what do you call the fine metal mesh that screen doors are made of? It really barely exists in the UK. What you're talking about, I think I'd describe as a fine grade of weldmesh.

#14 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 03:05 PM:

dcb @13: I call that stuff "window screen," and indeed a Google search therefore does turn up what I think you're describing, although they tend to be of the pre-framed variety.

Changing my search term to "bulk window screen," Google helpfully suggests adding "rolls," and this does seem to work. However, one needs to find a place where one can buy 1 foot off the roll, as I suspect 10 or 50 feet of the stuff is a bit more than you need.

The caution I would offer about window screen material is to try to get a non-metallic variety, as the metallic sort might eventually rust, in this particular application.

(I was very startled to learn that metallic window screen material burns very nicely. That is, until I remembered that steel wool makes lovely kindling, if you're doing the flint-and-steel thing.)

#15 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 03:07 PM:

Oh yeah, abi: after the initial soak, do you keep your sprouting seeds in the dark? Sticks in my mind that, back when I was doing that, I kept mine in a closed cupboard.

#16 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 03:09 PM:

Jacque @15:
after the initial soak, do you keep your sprouting seeds in the dark?

No, they spend the entire time on an open shelf in a daylit room.

#17 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 03:32 PM:

dcb @ #13, like Jacque, I call it "window screen" or "screen wire", though some commercial sources seem to go with merely "screen".

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 03:45 PM:

I think some hardware stores sell pieces for window (rather than door) screens.

Nylon organza, maybe?

also, there's this lid available.

#19 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 04:19 PM:

P J Evans @18: Hardware stores in the UK?

Okay, I've just done an online search for "window screen" for the UK and come up with some possibilities at reasonable prices, so I can now pursue this further for my windows & patio door - so next summer we can have better air circulation and Freya can enjoy the sniffs from outside. Good sniffs! (At least, she seems to think so, and she's an expert in such things).

#20 ::: Phiala ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 04:20 PM:

Even easier: peanut butter or other jar with metal lid; hammer; nail.

Take lid off jar. No really. Stitches from the broken glass entirely spoil the savings from growing your own sprouts.

Put the lid top-down on a piece of scrap wood or several layers of cardboard, on the sidewalk or something else you don't care about.

Use hammer and nail in obvious fashion to poke a bunch of holes in the lid. Works great for draining sprouts, and is easy to keep clean.

And now, the botanical bit: if you want the long skinny white sprouts, keep them in the dark. If you don't mind shorter greener ones, or want that effect, keep them in the light. Edible science experiment: do one of each.

The long skinny white sprouts are experiencing etiolated growth, the consequence of trying frantically to grow up through the dirt to find the sun and failing miserably. (Also, the consequence of anthropomorphizing wildly.) That's the long and skinny part; the lack of green is because it's inefficient to incur the metabolic cost of producing chlorophyll before there's enough light to use it.

#21 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 04:22 PM:

What if That Guy is a contagious serial enthusiast?

#22 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 04:22 PM:

@18

I have a set of those in three mesh sizes. (Actually, I have two sets, because I'd bought the first set, then lost them and bought a second set, at which point the first set got jealous and came out of hiding, as inanimate objects are wont to do around me.) And I have alfalfa seeds in the cupboard. And it's the middle of winter and I've just got the holiday decorations off the sideboard, which means it would be a fine time to start a jar of sprouts.

(I usually leave a dark towel around the jar until they've germinated, then give them all the light they can get. I'm not sure whether it makes them Go Faster, but it makes me think they do.)

#23 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 04:28 PM:

I kept the jar in a cupboard (on its side, usually), but it only took an hour or so in light for the green to show up.

I need to find sprouter space. (Broccoli makes nice sprouts, too. And a little fenugreek in the mix is interesting.)

#24 ::: J Meijer ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 04:36 PM:

Abi, you can get more beans easily at most bio-food places (natuurvoedingswinkels) those tend to have a slightly different assortment than the ethnic stores.

I have been tempted myself at times but haven't made the jump before. My sprouts experience is limited to mung bean sprouts (tauge), alfalfa and garden cress which can be bought from the supermarkets.

#25 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 04:42 PM:

Herb sprouts (e.g. basil, thyme, sage) are yummy. I've never sprouted them in a jar or box, but when I grew herbs from seed in my much-sunnier former yard, we used to add the thinned seedlings to salad.

#26 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 05:44 PM:

‡ no, not that That Guy; that’s what restraining orders are for.

Heh. Nice.

Daniel Boone @ 10 ...
My mother used to sprout (mung beans, mostly, but also some fine little hairy/waddy sprouts, maybe alfalfa?) because she was worried that our diet in the frozen north was vegetable-deficient. (I'm sure it was a sensible worry.)

Ah, you had that problem too. I know that sprouts aren't always bad, but they remind me of the unending parade of childhood meals that included sprouts, by hook or by crook...

#27 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 07:21 PM:

Xeger #26, yes. You've reminded me of another dreaded staple: fried fish patties, made from the jarred salmon again, with hot mung bean sprouts fried inside 'em. {shudder}

We were never hungry. My mother had most of the credits toward a home economics degree and she was very proud of her ability to "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." She was determined that her children would receive adequate nutrition, and I expect we did.

But there were a few years there... well, I think the current politically correct non-shaming phrase is "food insecurity." We had it.

That, and my mom's understandable stress about it, created some real interesting food issues in our house, especially relating to which foods (if any) the kids were allowed to access as snacks versus as part of planned meals. You should see the funny looks I get today when I start gnoshing a cold boiled potato with salt on it -- but that was a frequent leftover in my house, and one of the few that wasn't likely to be already planned into a future meal (since every future meal plan already started with "wash and cook more potatoes").

#28 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 08:08 PM:

Abi, you grew up in Berkeley, of course your parents grew sprouts :-) (Actually one of the things I liked about living there in the late 70s was that you could get fresh sprouts in the Co-op grocery store.)

My sister spent a while living on an island up in Alaska; she was studying forestry, so she was up there to watch it rain on trees. The grocery plane stopped by about once a month. She ate a lot of sprouts while she was there, because it was basically the only way to get fresh green vegetables most of the time.

#29 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 08:21 PM:

Martin @8, only if you get green (unroasted) coffee beans. I know of one place they can be bought online (Greenwell Farms, in Kona). I'm sure there are others.

Internet says they take a month to germinate, though. Probably isn't worth it.

(Yes, I know this was probably a joke in the first place. But you got me curious.)

#30 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 09:31 PM:

Steel wool burns, you say?

At the risk of derailing the thread, I'm looking for ideas for Mad Science Party II. Last time we ended up with a few improvised experiments, and a lot of people brought their own, but it's important to have Plans for these things. Last time we had a laser pointer [from an attempt to make eggs glow in the dark] and dry ice [just because] and we discovered that CO2 will, in fact, flore... floure... show laser pointer light. Fluoresce . Anyway, you can watch it swirl around in your glass well after it stops making steam. And we grilled frozen chocolate chip cookie dough because someone claimed they "hadn't brought an experiment, but they brought cookie dough." But you can't RELY on this sort of lucky accident.

I guess what I'm saying is that you can't have Mad Science without plans and backup plans. Steel wool sounds fun without being TOO dangerous.

#31 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 09:51 PM:

I like sprouts sometimes. The radish sprouts one can get off the Whole Foods' salad bar are an excellent garnish.

The bean sprouts that are an inevitable part of one of my favorite vietnamese restaurant salad dishes are not. I find them not very good and sometimes they make my mouth itch.

I kind of missed the whole sprout thing because I have a few food allergies, some of them are very mild and managed by not having the same thing every day. Corn is one of those. On the other hand, baby corn will make me have hives and swelling until I take a benedryl. I do my best to avoid it--imagine my shock at a dehydrated noodle thing that had baby corns in it (as a work lunch)! and I didn't realize what it was until I had a bit and my mouth started itching. Fortunately I keep benedryl in my work desk.

So I'm kind of leery about the whole sprout thing. I'm glad others enjoy it, though.

#32 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 09:56 PM:

30
Quinine, and tonic water, fluoresce under a black light. You can have glowing punch!

#33 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 10:30 PM:

P J Evans @ 32 ...
IIRC, Seven-up and tequila will do the same...

#34 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 10:33 PM:

Froot Loops and Cheetos also fluoresce under UV. Cheetos also burn surprisingly well. Be careful.

#35 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 10:48 PM:

@30

Glow-in-the-dark buffet?

Now I'm wondering whether sprouts glow under blacklight. Alas, I don't have a proper blacklight...

#36 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 12:01 AM:

wrt Mad Science a la carte, you can get some nifty fluorescence under UV from uranium glass (green glow) and cadmium sulfide/selenide glass (orange/red glow)-- iirc Martha Stewart actually had a Halloween magazine tableau with uranium glass last year or so-- but it's probably easier (and cheaper) to just get "neon"-colored plastics and/or decorative pigments (paint, crayons, gel pens, highlighters etc.), most of which will also fluoresce under UV.

I carry around a small borderline UV/violet Photon Light LED for spot-checking mystery items while shopping.

...IIRC I've recently seen a new line of "neon" food coloring that I haven't checked out yet; if those are UV-active, that could mean glowy fun for all.

#37 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 12:08 AM:

Oh, how healthy. I'm now mildly regretting the donut I just ate (even if it was chocolate filled). Too bad I didn't see this post earlier today, before I went to the store, so I could have bought some sprouts.

#38 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 02:22 AM:

Steel wool *does* burn. Be careful, as the finer the wool, the greater the flash. It gets used in some gas-welding applications... and young (e.g. shop students) can be a bit prone to the follies of ignorance.

Seeing the drawer go **Whummmpfff** when someone decided to get a piece of steel wool, while under the hood; and holding a lit welding torch, and (as he was blind) bringing the flame into his field of view to use as a sort of flashlight... well lets just say no one in that shop class is ever likely to forget the way in which 0000 steel wool can ignite.

Think old-fashioned flashbulb, and I'm still glad he was wearing welding leather.

#39 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 03:07 AM:

Sandy B. @30: The caution with steel wool as kindling is that you have to blow on it, or it goes out pretty quickly.* Basically, near as I can tell, you're making it rust really REALLY fast. Also, I'd use the fine-grain stuff (the really wooly stuff), not the more recent stuff with the coarser texture. No clue how that would work.

Other neat things to do: brown eggs reputedly glow red when under ultra-violet light. (It's the bilirubin fluorescing, you know.) (Actually, when I went to check the spelling of bilirubin, the second suggested search was "in urine," which suggests urine would fluoresce, too (though that might not be appropriate for a school activity).

Got a rilly dark room, wintergreen Lifesavers, and a pair of pliers? Turns out wintergreen Lifesavers spark when crushed. (You can use your teeth to crush 'em, too, but for that you need a mirror in your dark room {bathroom?}, and the spark is harder to see.) Any hard candy will do. (piezoelectric? I forget.) But it turns out that light emission of the sugar is just the right wavelength to fluoresce the wintergreen oil.

Coupla lemons, a coupla paperclips, and a penny? You can make a small battery. Somebody here can doubtless quote a voltage, and what one could likely run with it.

Oh yeah, and when you're done with the battery, take a slice of your lemon and squeeze the outside surface of the peel at the flame of a candle. (The things high-school kids discover during long, late-night bull-sessions at the local IHOP.)

And, of course, the ever-popular Mentos & soda. Mwa-ha.

For more tasty fun: clear glass mug or bowl and a nice hot helping of hot-and-sour soup make a wonderful way to study convection cells.

* If memory serves; this was 40-odd years ago.

#40 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 03:11 AM:

Paula Helm Murray @31: baby corn will make me have hives and swelling until I take a benedryl.

Heh. Better than the effect flax seed has one me. And the only treatment I've found is to let it, um, pass. Two double-blind tests have verified the connection. Feh.

#41 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 03:16 AM:

Terry Karney @38: Wow. Sandy B., pay more attention to Terry than to me, please. I only ever tried to ignite it with sparks. Nothing so...direct.

'Minds me of the story a coworker told about a guy who was fond of putting capacitors backwards across the arc-welder. Not a good idea with a one-mic.

#42 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 06:29 AM:

Paula Helm Murray @31: Ah! a fellow mouth-itcher. In my case, recognition of the food components involved, when the problem started*, was complicated because my hypersensitivity reaction (itching palate) generally only makes itself known at peak histamine times - night and early morning - whatever time I encountered (ate/inhaled) the allergen. I -can- eat marzipan (which I love) in small quantities, not too often (or eat more and accept the itching)

*seems to be almonds and cashews, plus a bit of dust allergy.

#43 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 07:50 AM:

Jacque, urine does indeed fluoresce under UV, and there are pocket UV lights marketed for the purpose of finding dog or cat pee spots on the carpet.

I can confirm the wintergreen lightsavers thing. Makes a pretty green flash.

Also, as Mythbusters fans may know, non-dairy creamer scattered into the air near a flame will explode. Be careful.

#44 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 08:41 AM:

Actually, green vs. white sprouts might be a perfect Mad Science snack.
If the white sprouts are given purple-food-colored water do they end up purple?

#45 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 09:35 AM:

Martin #8: Only if you have a serious desire to hurt yourself.

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 09:49 AM:

Sandy B @ 44... green vs. white sprouts might be a perfect Mad Science snack

Does it say something bad about me that your comment immediately made me think of 1951's "The Thing"?

"Here's the sixty-four dollar question - what do you do with a vegetable?"
"Boil it."
"What did you say?"
"Boil it... bake it... stew it... fry it?"

#47 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 09:55 AM:

@44

One of us is going to have to try this and come back in a week with a report...

#48 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 10:02 AM:

Sandy B. 30:

a few years ago, I was looking for youTube videos of spinning wool -- sheep's wool, that is -- and was very bemused to find that most of the first hits for "spinning wool" were of people spinning bunches of ignited steel wool around on a wire, kind of cowboy-lariat-style, IIRC. It looked pretty impressive. I can't really recommend igniting sheep's wool.

#49 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 10:28 AM:

Julie L. @ 36 ...
wrt Mad Science a la carte, you can get some nifty fluorescence under UV from uranium glass (green glow) and cadmium sulfide/selenide glass (orange/red glow)

Indeedy -- I have a small selection of uranium glass, of which I'm quite fond :) [0] At some point, should I ever manage to remodel the kitchen, I'm pondering a display cabinet that includes blacklight...

These photos of my upstairs hall light are absolutely terrible, but may give some idea of the sort of glow you can get. I still haven't figured out a way to setup a separate blacklight for it, either :(

[0] ... and there's a certain glee in being able to talk about my radioactive reamer...

#50 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 10:41 AM:

I met flaming steel wool in chemistry lab. It was one of the things we'd drop in a vial of (freshly generated) oxygen. (The steel wool was heated first. The splint was lit, then snuffed out. They both went *whumpf* and burned. Do Not Try This At Home.)

#51 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 12:07 PM:

For red/purple-leaf sprouts, you might try Amaranthus (still a popular leaf- and seed- plant in formerly-Inca areas).

N.b.: the seeds are tiny and require a fine-mesh straining material during at least the first stages of germination. Also note, if you grow it yourself, some cultivars grow rapidly to c. 8 feet, and self-seed to become weeds in warmer climates.

#52 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 12:17 PM:

More prosaic uses for steel wool, in a "principles of physics" sort of way.

Get a carbon steel knife. Get a lemon. Cut the lemon with the knife. Smear the juice all over the blade. Let it dry.

The blade will now be much darker. The lemon juice as acted to chemically blue the steel. This inhibit rust.

Use the steel wool to polish one side of the knife (spinning it on a Dremel, or similar tool greatly speeds this; smart people use a breathing mask to avoid inhaling bits of broken steel wool).

Wipe the knife with a damp sponge, both sides. Let it dry. Compare the level of rust.

#53 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 12:33 PM:

xeger @49: Ooh-- is that the same sort of near-white uranium glass as these beads?

I'm pretty sure I've seen Xmas-type light strands with UV LEDs; some of those must run off a battery pack with a power switch. Maybe you could discreetly mount one of those onto the wall, if the lead-in wire length is enough to get all the way up to the fixture and coil the LEDs inside. (Or tack those to the ceiling as well, so it doesn't look like a small, lumpy snake is waiting to pounce when the main bulb is on.)

Huh-- looks like American Science & Surplus now has loose UV LEDs for ~$5 each, if you have the right geekly DIY to use them (I don't).

#54 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 02:41 PM:

Lila @43: Also, as Mythbusters fans may know, non-dairy creamer scattered into the air near a flame will explode. Be careful.

Actually, if memory serves, just about any airborn dust (certainly anything made of food stuffs) will explode, given the right conditions. This phenomenon has historically made flour mills "interesting" places.

#55 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 02:47 PM:

Don Fitch @51: For red/purple-leaf sprouts, you might try Amaranthus (still a popular leaf- and seed- plant in formerly-Inca areas).

How odd; I wasn't aware the Boulder was a formerly-Inca area. ;-) Also, rumor has it that millet seed & amaranth together make a complete protein. No verification, but I can confirm that they make a lovely pilaf.

#56 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 03:16 PM:

Jacque@54: "Built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill, Mill City Museum is located on the historic Mississippi Riverfront."

#57 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 03:31 PM:

Serge @ 46:
"Boil it... bake it... stew it... fry it?"

Nom nom nom, Thing Tempura.

#58 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 03:51 PM:

I've used this contraption off and on for decades and it's been pretty reliable, but this thread is encouraging me to look at some new varieties of seeds.

#59 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 04:43 PM:

Martin@8 "Can you sprout coffee beans?"
Caroline@29 "only if you get green (unroasted) coffee beans. I know of one place they can be bought online"

There are a few Ethiopian grocery stores here in the Bay Area, and Ethiopian is one of my favorite kinds of coffee, so I checked one out. It turns out they only sell their beans green, but the guy there told me how to roast them (basically, thin cooking pan, gas flame, shake a lot.) I spent a while experimenting with different combinations (since I have an electric stove and a toaster oven, and don't have thin non-nonstick pans, but did have some aluminum pie-plates around.) It felt a bit like making Jiffy-Pop (which was a prepackaged aluminum-foil pan of popcorn that you made on a stove-top, before microwave popcorn became the obvious replacement.) You really need to do a lot of shaking to keep the beans roasting evenly, and you want to make sure it's all at least lightly roasted - a mixture of green bits and burned bits just isn't the same.

I didn't think of sprouting them, but I suspect a coffee-sprout salad would really get your attention. If you want caffeinated salads, the Burmese make a green-tea-leaf salad which is really worthwhile, though more of the flavor comes from all the spices and garlic and such than from the tea leaves themselves.

#60 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 04:56 PM:

Julie L. @ 53 ...
xeger @49: Ooh-- is that the same sort of near-white uranium glass as these beads?

It's a somewhat creamier colour, but yes.

I'm pretty sure I've seen Xmas-type light strands with UV LEDs; some of those must run off a battery pack with a power switch. Maybe you could discreetly mount one of those onto the wall, if the lead-in wire length is enough to get all the way up to the fixture and coil the LEDs inside. (Or tack those to the ceiling as well, so it doesn't look like a small, lumpy snake is waiting to pounce when the main bulb is on.)
Huh-- looks like American Science & Surplus now has loose UV LEDs for ~$5 each, if you have the right geekly DIY to use them (I don't).

I'd rather that whatever I end up doing doesn't involve visible wires all over the place -- so that pretty much boils down to either running more wire, or sorting out something wireless... and unfortunately, my Round Tuit for that particular chasing about is below a raft of rather more immediately pressing things :(

#61 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 05:49 PM:

re roasting coffee: I use a small (No. 5) cast iron skillet. I find the mass of the iron makes it easier to control the transfer of heat. One still has to shake it, and account for expansion (I cover the bottom of the skillet about 3/4s, in a single layer of beans), but eyeball calibration, and being aware the paper from the beans will fly about, is all one requires.

It smells a bit like popcorn too.

#62 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 06:36 PM:

58
I have one of those, somewhere. It works pretty well, as long as you wash each tray well between batches. Otherwise - it isn't pretty.

#63 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 11:01 AM:

For the pyro crowd - there is, or was, a brand of potato chips sold mostly in West Virginia that tends to be just a tad on the greasy side. Quite a few years back, at Pennsic, someone started passing a bag of them around the campfire. This bag was not only greasy, but stale. Eventually, someone threw a few in the fire. Whoosh! Flare! That bag of chips was much more entertaining than palatable.

#64 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 11:11 AM:

xeger @ 60... A Christmas Tree of Superscience?

#65 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 12:05 PM:

Bill @59

Before he bought his purpose-built coffee roaster, my husband used the "dogbowl" method to roast his coffee. It does have to be done outside, because chaff flies up and out of the bowl. (We used a steel mixing bowl). I've got an internet friend who swears by the West Bend Poppery Popcorn Popper (not the Poppery 2) as his coffeeroaster of choice.

Me, I don't drink the stuff, but he praises home-roasting up one side and down the other. Apparently it's a big jump in the quality of the flavor.

#66 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 04:07 PM:

re air-poppers. I don't care for them, but I happen to like both darker,and lighter, roasts than a popper can do well.

#67 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 05:08 PM:

SandyB @ 30

Red cabbage functions as Ph testing solution, just be sure you cook/puree it in Ph neutral water.

#68 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 06:25 PM:

Serge @ 64 ...
xeger @ 60... A Christmas Tree of Superscience?

I fear that'd end up being a supercollider, given my cats...

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 06:34 PM:

xeger @ 68... They sound like Simon's Cat.

#70 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 12:46 AM:

Jacque @ 12

But this is McGuckin's we're talking about.

The One True Hardware Store.

But your link points to this thread, not McGuckin's. :(

Try McGuckin's instead.

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